As you know this weekend we celebrate the Feast of the “Baptism of the Lord.” The Baptism of the Lord is a unique celebration in that (liturgically), it marks both the last weekend of the Christmas Season and also the First Sunday in Ordinary Time. There is no Sunday officially named the “First Sunday in Ordinary Time” since the Baptism of Jesus takes it’s place! Next Sunday we begin with the “Second Sunday in Ordinary Time.” So, why does the Church do this and why does this Sunday really serve both seasons as a sort of transition or bridge between these two liturgical events?
There may be several reasons for doing this, but the two primary reasons that come to my mind are:
1) During the Christmas Season we focus primarily the infancy narratives of our Lord, His birth, the Visit of the Magi on the Epiphany, the Flight into Egypt, followed by the Finding of Jesus in the Temple as a young boy. The Baptism of Jesus then really shifts our focus more on Jesus’ public life and his mission as an adult. We undergo a theological/liturgical shift as our Lord begins to announce the Good News and initiate the Kingdom of God in our midst. At this time there is a real sense of urgency in Christ’s message.
2) The second reason I believe the Church (in all her wisdom) links the Baptism of Jesus as both the end of the Christmas Season and beginning of Ordinary Time is more philosophical reasons. Think about it: In every moments of our human lives there are both beginnings and ends. In other words, “To every end there is at the same time a new beginning. To every beginning there is at the same time a new end!” These are not two separate events, but a single moment in our life, whether it is moment we graduate from High School and venture off into college, commit ourselves to getting married and end our life as a single person, transition into a new job as we complete an old, or retire from our job and begin to live a retired life. Even every sunrise and sunset marks both a beginning and an end at once . This is especially true in the Life of Jesus and in our Faith life in Christ. As a People of God, we live in the presence of beginnings and ends, as we journey onward toward the Kingdom of God. So, by the Church linking these two great events of Christmas Season with Ordinary Time in liturgical seasons, she is merely reflecting for us a very important part of our life.
Maybe as we ponder the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we can take time to reflect on those moments in us where ends and beginnings become one, and in those moments remind ourselves that Jesus has his foot in both. He present within all the transitions of our life! May his peace always be with us in this New Year!